Fail Here, and You Fail Everywhere: How to Analyze Narrative Writing Prompts

Even though they are some of the most interesting “freestyle” essays, narrative assignments can be challenging if you don’t approach them properly. If the foundation of your assignment is faulty, you will end up with a faulty essay that will fetch you low grades.


One of the things you need to put in place is understanding your assignment’s prompt. This part of the writing process is the most important because if you do not understand it, every other thing you will do will be useless because you will be like a marathoner trying to win a marathon inside a football stadium. The runner will be disqualified even if he completed the 42 kilometers because he or she was running off the designated site.


As a good student, you also need to approach your narrative assignment the same way. You cannot compensate your failure to understand your prompt by anything whether it is excellent research, perfect styling, or even impeccable grammar. The reason is you will be approaching your assignment from a position of not knowing both what you are doing and what you ought to do. To help you avoid such blunders in the future, this post will discuss the best tricks on analyzing and interpreting narrative essay prompts.


Handle with care

The biggest reason why many students fail here is not they don’t actually read the prompts. The greatest challenge lies in how they read and handle them. As long as you treat this section as a warm up to the “real thing” of putting down your pen to paper, you are already setting yourself up for failure. The reason is that reading your prompt carefully to understand it is the very foundation of the “real thing.” If you cannot understand your prompt, don’t draft anything yet. It is better you reread it or ask for help from your lecturer rather than rush and waste your time. The purpose of reading this way is to understand the purpose of the essay at hand.

Take note of the keywords and underline them

Just as the prompt of your essay helps you to understand the purpose of your work, the keywords in the prompt will also help you understand that purpose within the prompt.

Look at this example below:

Narrate the most embarrassing moment of your life and the lessons you learnt from them, you would have the following keywords from the prompt:

  • Narrate
  • Most embarrassing
  • Lessons

The four keywords above will give you a very clear sense of direction because they tell you exactly what you need to do. In this case, you are supposed to narrate, and not explain or define. Second, you know exactly what you are supposed to narrate— embarrassing moments. Third, you know the tone you need to take because the kind of moment is already defined as being the most embarrassing. Lastly, you know exactly what your response and stand should be—the lessons you learnt.

In the above example, you already have a clue to assist you in writing your thesis statement, that is, the lessons learn. You can focus your thesis statement on the words lessons and learnt. The word learnt should quickly awaken your analytical and critical thinking instinct so that you don’t just remember those moments, but also interpret them.

Restating the prompt in your own words

To understand your prompt better, you ought to look at it with your perspective. This demand means you can rewrite the prompt in our own words so you can know what it means better. You have to put yourself in you instructor’s shoes and figure out what you would do if you were presenting the same prompt to someone else.

Getting the need of the moment

After understanding what you should do, the next thing you will need to look at is how to get what you need to do it. In this case, you will need to look at the prompt based on the raw material you need to construct it. In this case, you have to start thinking of how you are going to sit and dig through all the embarrassing moments you have ever gone through in your life. Since they are many, you may need to single out the most memorable one that turned out for your good.

Define your readers

Every essay has a target audience. When you read your prompt, you need to look at what the prompt asks you to do to get an idea of what your audience would expect. When you look at it this way, you can discern their needs and expectations. As in our example, you are supposed to narrate the most embarrassing moments of your life. The word narrate requires you to see through the needs of the audience with a narrator’s eyes so that you can tilt your essay in that angle. Additionally, you will need to adjust your writing style so that what you say and how you say it combine to meet their needs.

Ask and answer yourself critical questions

The last idea that will help you to break down your prompt to an easy level of understanding is having your personal question and answer session. Naturally, all questions provoke thinking. When you take every keyword and then ask a question about it, you get closer to better ideas through the answers you give. In our example, if you take the keyword “lessons,” you may ask yourself, “What kind of lessons did I learn and how can my readers benefit from them?” When you answer this question, you stand on a higher ground to broaden the scope of your thinking and reflection on how you interpret issues and see the bigger picture that transcends just events.

Closing remarks

You are now up-to-date with tips that will sharpen your prompt- analyzing skills. With all these ideas at your fingertips, you have every reason to take your proficiency to the next level. Our team of experts at is ready to assist you should you need further help.

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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